His bad knee was bothering him, and his fifth Boston Marathon had gone slower than the 53-year-old from Maryville, Ill., would have liked. He started in the third corral of the marathon’s second wave of runners, and finished the 26.2 miles in 4:18:41.
“I got my medal, and the foil they wrap you up in,” Sanders said by phone Monday afternoon. “I was walking to go get my bag.”
But two explosions stopped him in his tracks. Cannons, he assumed. After all, it was Patriots’ Day in Boston.
“I turned around, and there was a group of policemen there,” Sanders said. “They said, ‘That doesn’t look good.’ And then it was just total chaos after that.”
The Boston cops ran toward the apparent attack that would quickly become national news. Sirens grew louder, and Sanders searched for his friend, fellow marathon runner Mike Frigerio of St. Louis.
“I was waiting for Bob,” Frigerio, who had finished his third Boston Marathon approximately an hour earlier, said by telephone.
Frigerio had also heard the explosions, then saw runners who had already finished the race sprinting down the street toward him.
“Nobody runs once you cross the finish line,” he said. “That’s when I knew something was bad. Then big, big clouds of smoke went right up into the air, and I could see people from the grandstands at the finish line getting down.”
He said his mind jumped back to the 2007 Boston Marathon. That year, the news of the Virginia Tech massacre waited for him upon conclusion of the race.
After finding one another, the two friends joined the mad scramble to get away from the scene. Police told the racers not to use their cellphones to make calls, something that delayed contact with family and friends — and potentially prevented the detonation of more bombs.
“Everyone that I know, that I was familiar with in our group, is OK,” Sanders said. “There were five or six of us. And we are all OK.”
Others weren’t as fortunate. Three deaths have been reported, and the number of the injured continues to grow.
Sanders is spending the night in a Cambridge, Mass., hotel. He should be dwelling on a race time that was too slow. Now, that disappointment seems infinitely small.
“I’m safe, thankfully,” he said. “It was very, very scary to say the least. It’s just awful.”